On a fast and furious trip to Vietnam, Popupla's Berit Baugher slows down for Hội An’s most charming tea parlor.
VIETNAM - The problem with covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time is that just as you find something to love, it’s time to move on. This will inevitably leave you thinking and longing for whatever it was – a peaceful bookstore, a handsome Italian, or a small teahouse on a busy street in Hội An. I was on a whirlwind tour of Vietnam with Silversea cruises, making my way from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City, Chan May, Ha Long Bay, and Hong Kong — in the span of nine days. It was a fast and furious trip that left me wanting more: another day dodging motorbikes, one more bowl of pho at Propoganda in HCMC, and the foresight to pack an extra suitcase (the shopping really is that good). One day I’ll go back, but until then I’ll be thinking about the idyllic half-hour spent at a charming Vietnamese tea parlor.
I was traveling with a friend and we had just one hour to see Hội An, a picturesque town on Vietnam’s central coast, best known for its well-preserved ancient town. First, we made a stop at the Japanese covered bridge, an 18th-century wooden bridge with elaborate carvings and a pedestrian passageway. It was stunning and (understandably) packed with other tourists. From there, we started walking to Bánh Mì Phượng, a banh mi stand made famous by food writer and television personality Anthony Bourdain. Along the way we got distracted by Sunday in Hoi An, a small boutique filled with modern ceramics, wooden spoons, and straw goods from local villages. Then we queued up in a short line with other hungry tourists, mesmerized by the sandwich making process, which seemed to include at least a dozen steps. The sandwiches were good, but the performance was stellar. There was one last stop on my list of places to visit. I figured we could spend the remainder of our time relaxing with a cup of tea, or we could continue walking around, taking photos of the quaint lantern-lined streets.
From the street, Reaching Out Teahouse doesn’t look like much. It was only when we stepped inside that we realized we had found a gem. The tastefully decorated townhouse is a quiet oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Hội An. Opened by a collective of speech- and hearing-impaired Vietnamese, the teahouse offers a unique experience centered around enjoying a cup of tea in silence. Although not totally quiet, it certainly was a contrast to the bustling streets — and the vibe was all the better for it.
My friend and I took a seat at a back table in the small courtyard. A waitress placed a small wooden tray with blocks that had words like whisper, ice, bill, and hot water in front of us. A paper menu and order sheet laid out the offerings, which included a selection of Vietnamese teas, coffees, fresh juices, and snacks. It’s worth noting that the exchange rate in Vietnam is incredibly favorable to U.S. travelers, which meant that just about anywhere I went, I could afford to sample whatever I wanted. On our order sheet: two Vietnamese iced-coffees, a cold glass of fresh-squeezed lime juice, and a selection of delicate homemade cookies.
While we waited for our meal to come I quietly took myself on a tour of the space, taking in the small shelf of handmade goods from their nearby craft shop Reaching Out and the jars of cookies at the front counter. Simply put, every little corner and detail was a total delight. And the drinks and snacks did not disappoint either. I loved the beautiful brass and ceramic serving pieces (much of which is for sale at Reaching Out). I could have easily stayed for another hour or two, imaging what it would be like if such a place existed in my Brooklyn neighborhood, but alas, it was already time to head to the next destination.
Reaching Out Teahouse
131 Tran Phu Street
Hoi, Quang nam 560000, Vietnam